Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims
If non-Muslims want to understand the nature of Islam and Muslims in the UK, the first thing to say is that the vast majority of Muslims here are Sunni and of Pakistani descent. In addition, around 16.8% of Muslims in England and Wales are Bangladeshi, and 8% of Muslims in the UK are of Indian origin.
Most of the mosques in the UK are Pakistani and Bangladeshi in terms of ethnic/ national affiliation. As of 2010, 44.6% of mosques are Deobandi, 28.2% Barelvi or other Sufi groups, 5.8% Salafi and 4.2% Shi'a.
Barelvis deem Deobandis and Shi'a to be kaafir ('infidel'). Similarly, Deobandis, and other Muslims, deem the Barelvi to be "shrine-worshipping, ... grave-worshipping, [and] ignorant".
Rather disingenuously, you will often hear the Sufi credentials of Barelvi being stressed by Muslims, but especially by non-Muslim Islamophiles. The suggestion is that Sufism is some kind of moderate Islam. It most certainly isn't (though there may be strands of Sufism that are). For example, some Barelvi are involved with terrorist activities. Millions more are attached to Islamist political parties such as the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP). Very many British Pakistani Muslims have links to the explicitly Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, including the former leader of Respect, Salma Yaqoob. And since these parties are the political expression of Barelvi Islam, what better definition of 'Islamism' could there be?
There have often been very violentÂ confrontations between Deobandi and Barelvi. For example, in 2006 in Karachi, a bomb attack was launched on a Barelvi gathering which resulted in 57 deaths. Barelvi also got involved with the Islamic violence by forcibly gaining control of a mosque in Karachi, killing worshippers and injuring others.
Consequently, I think it would be wise to expect this kind of thing to start happening in the UK some time in the future.
Islam in the UK
As of 2012, there were 8 Muslim MPs and 12 Muslim peers. And, as many people know, most Muslims vote for the Labour Party.
There are also a number of Islamic television channels in the UK. These include the Islam Channel, the Ummah Channel and Ahlebait TV. The Islam Channel, for example, was reprimanded by Ofcom for encouraging domestic violence as well as for being politically biased. The Islam Channel also features broadcasts by various Trotskyist/ communist political activists such as ex-SWP John Rees (now of the Stop the War Coalition, Counterfire and The People's Assembly), Yvonne Ridley (now a Muslim) and George Galloway.
As of 2006 (there are more today), there were 140 Islamic schools in the UK. And at that time, twelve of them received funds from the state.
In 2007, there were more than 1,500 mosques in the UK.
Young Muslims in the UK
That the younger generation of Muslims is more extreme (i.e., more fundamentalist and/ or Islamist, though less 'ethnic') than the older generations was indicated by a 2007 poll which showed that 36% of 16-to-24-year-olds believe that if a Muslim converts to another religion, then he or she must be killed. This compared to 19% of Muslims in the 55 years and above bracket who think that apostates must be killed.Â
In addition, a collation of various European polls taken in 2006 showed that British Muslims have the most negative views of Westerners in the whole of Europe. Ironically, this was not reciprocated by British non-Muslims, who had, at the time, the most positive views of Muslims in Europe. However, as with all statistics and polls, this has been graphically contradicted by more recent polls which show a very negative attitude towards both Islam and Muslims.
Finally, one survey, again from 2006, showed that 81% of British Muslims think of themselves as being Muslim rather than British. That is not a surprise when you bear in mind that this is seen throughout the Muslim world. In all Muslim countries, Muslims see themselves as Muslims first. Take Pakistan, where 87% of Pakistanis see themselves as Muslim rather than Pakistani (even though this state was created specifically for Muslims). With the rise of Islamism amongst the British young, this way of thinking is bound to increase until, eventually, virtually no young UK Muslim will see him or herself as being British.
(Photo: "East London Mosque Front View", by 'AA', from Wikimedia Commons.)
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